Monday, February 27, 2012

New Boat

I did not grow up boating very much.  In fact, I didn't learn how to water ski until I was about 24.  But once I did my wife did as well.  We decided to purchase a boat and see if it was going to catch on. I had a fear that the boat would spend most of its time unused.  I thought it would probably only be used a couple of times and then we would sell it after a year.

Well, this past weekend we upgraded from that starter to boat to our first Mastercraft.  After 2.5 years we know what we like, and that is boating.  We have a couple more years before we start having kids and now seemed like a great time to upgrade.

We are both extremely excited about the new boat.  We had to compromise based on our budget, but we are now proud owners of a 2001 Mastercraft Prostar 209.  The best part is that is only has 174 hours on it.  Other than a good cleaning, the boat should be ready to go as soon as the weather allows.

Looking forward to the ski season!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Asking the Right Questions

I go on a lot of sales calls.  One minute I will be in someones living room talking about their personal safety.  Another minute I might be in someones office talking about their computers. And yet another minute I might be sitting around our conference room talking to someone about their website and online marketing.  In any of these situations, my goal is to sell them something.  Yes, I could call it something else or put a more positive spin on it.  But the reality is I am trying to sell them a product or service.

What continues to amaze people is the information I am able to gather while on these sales calls.  It starts with personal items.  Just yesterday I learned the owner of a business I was talking to took 5 years to pursue golf as a career before he turned 40.  He was playing every tournament he could and trying to get into the pros.  It didn't work.  But where it all leads is to how I can help this person or business with my product or service and how we are going to make it happen.  The way that I accomplish this is by asking the right questions, in the right way.

I'm sure someone has said this before, it has probably been taught to me specifically.  But I don't remember an exact lesson with that title or message - asking the right questions in the right way.  Often times, the right question is an invasive question.  You are probably asking something that the prospect feels they shouldn't tell you.  Perfect example - how much are you willing to spend?  Could you imagine if every prospect you dealt with told you exactly what they are willing to spend. You could give them the perfect offering and earn their business every time!  But prospects don't want to do that, they want to hear your price first and then decide if they want to do business.

Yet, I regularly walk out of a sales call with my prospects number.  It isn't always easy.  But by asking the right questions in the right way, I am able to get all the information I'm looking for, without making the prospect feel uncomfortable.

I'm sure you want more detail.  Well it depends on your industry. But you need to slow down and determine if you are asking the right questions in the right way.  What kind of reactions are you getting from prospects when you ask questions?  Are they open with you or defensive? Do they fold their arms and block you out? Or do they lean in and share more than they expected to?

Listen, evaluate, improve.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

I feel like I have the ability to understand other peoples point of view really well.  I can put myself in their shoes and understand what they are thinking and why they are thinking it.  Does this mean that I always make the best decisions in how to deal with different people?  Definitely not.

I find myself doing this quite often with employees and trying to figure out how to help them.  Many times I don't agree with what they are thinking or feeling, but I understand why they feel the way they are. So the challenge is to take the information and use it to help them.

I have been reading a book on influence and it has been extremely insightful.  I am half way through the book but I am already applying lessons from the first half in the real world.  We identified two major problems within our business and I used the information from this book to design solutions to the problems.  I put myself in the shoes of our employees and tried to understand their point of view.  We called a meeting and I did my very best to explain our point of view to everyone else.

Our expectation for this meeting was that it would be very heated, uncomfortable, and challenging.  In fact, we posted a sign on the door requesting that everyone leave their emotions at the door, so that we could have a productive meeting and find effective solutions.  We also made an important move by meeting with one of our leaders prior to the company meeting, and having a preliminary discussion with her.  This was very effective in bringing out a couple of other issues that needed to be addressed and getting her to agree with our 2 major problems out loud.

So what happened?  Did our company explode and everyone started physically attacking each other in the meeting?  Nope.  Did people get really emotional and we spent the whole time without being productive?  Nope.  We had a very successful meeting.  In fact, we accomplished everything we wanted to without having the tension and anger that we thought was inevitable.

I believe it was the best example of truly applying principles we have learned from leaders, books and experience to make sure we were successful.  It has been only 4 days but the team is already responding positively.  We still have to work hard and correct our issues.  But we laid out specific plans, we set goals, and we created accountability.  I couldn't be happier so far!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cold Calling

I happen to have an extensive amount of experience with cold calling.  Most people probably think of telephone cold calling first, but cold calling door to door is also a very common practice.  I will be holding a training session for two local companies soon on how to be successful at door to door selling (or cold calling).

Here's why I can get paid to teach these skills to people -

7 years experience
About 40,000 doors knocked on
About 10,000 presentations given
Over 50 sales reps trained
Over half a million in personal sales
Over a million in team sales

Oh, and this was all accumulated in 4 month periods as we only ran a summer sales program, not year round.  I honestly believe I am one of the most knowledgeable door to door salespeople in the country.  Sure, there are thousands and thousands with experience in it.  But I would wager there are only hundreds with a true ability to succeed and teach others.

I am excited about the opportunity to pass on some of this knowledge in a different format than I ever have before.  This will be an intense, 4 hour training designed to address the most important and most difficult aspects of door to door sales. My expectation is that anyone in the training will be able to walk away and immediately see and impact on their performance.

We'll see what happens.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Step by step instructions for long term marital bliss

My poor wife.  She must be telling her co-workers how  much I dislike Valentine's Day.

Received from her boss-

Dawn’s favorite flowers are tulips.

Buy her some.

Give them to her.

Purchase a Valentine’s Day card.

Sign your name to it.

Give it to her with the tulips.

Repeat annually.

She claims she had nothing to do with it.  Despite the email, I won't be getting her flowers.  I think flowers are a huge waste of money.  They die.  Last year I completely surprised my wife by sending her flowers for the first time ever.  It wasn't worth it.

I'll consider doing something for her on this made up holiday.  But it wouldn't be wise for her to get her hopes up.  It's not that I don't love her or appreciate her.  I just don't think Valentine's Day means anything.  We are going out for a nice dinner this weekend, technically in celebration.  We'll see if anything other than that happens.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Building Rapport

People buy from you because they ........

Like You


Trust You

Even if you have experienced any type of sales training, you are probably familiar with this information.  I'm not exactly coming up with a revolutionary idea when I talk about building rapport and getting to people to like and trust you.  Sales is all about making a connection with your prospect so that they will be comfortable doing business with you.

I often see building rapport as the one of the greatest weaknesses among salespeople.  They do not take the time slow down and find a common connection with their prospect prior to talking business.  Part of the reason is that they don't know how to do it and part of the reason is that they allow the prospect to control the conversation.  Allowing the prospect to make you skip building rapport happens all the time.  There are a few principles to follow when it comes to building rapport.

Ask Questions. Even better, Ask the Right Questions. 

A salesperson should never pretend to know about a subject just because they think the prospect is interested in it. If you have a genuine interest, talk about it.  If you don't, DON'T talk about it.  I'll give you an example, I don't like dogs.  Tons and tons of people loves their animals, especially dogs.  If you go to a house with a dog, two dog, or three dogs, that is probably a subject you can use to make a connection because pet owners love their pets.  But I absolutely do not like dogs.  I can't identify what type of dog it is.  I don't want to pet the dog.  I don't want your dog to jump all over me and lick me.  I don't ever pretend to like dogs.  Now, I also don't tell people about my dislike for dogs either.  I just avoid the subject and find another topic to discuss!  A good salesperson will have a variety of topics and interests that they can discuss with prospects.  A great salesperson will be extremely knowledgeable about these subjects and will be interested in their prospects experience in these subjects.

You need to have questions that allow you to find these common subjects.  The questions need to be open ended.  The questions need to invoke emotion or passion from the prospect.  When I see a Jeep Wrangler in some one's driveway or garage, that is typically a great connection for me.  I have owned 7 Wranglers.  I love them.  I know a lot about them.  Wranglers are kind of a niche vehicle, when people own them, they really like them.  I can name 10 other subjects that I commonly am able to connect with prospects about, can you?

Control the Conversation.

Sometimes, it is appropriate to cut people off.  WHAT?!  That can be rude, and a salesperson can't be rude.  Well, don't be rude about it.  Politely cut into the conversation. Be so nice, so professional, and so likable that the prospect doesn't care you cut them off!  I often times have to 'man handle' a conversation to get it headed in the right direction.  A salesperson cannot be afraid of leading their prospect into the conversation they need.  When a prospect jumps right down to business, politely answer the question or acknowledge them, but reverse right back into building rapport.  Follow up your answer to their business question with a question about that interesting coffee table they have.  Or that recently renovated kitchen.  Or possibly that boat sitting in the driveway.  Anything that the prospect might be passionate about AND you have a genuine interest in.  Don't be afraid to control the conversation.

When done well, building rapport lays the foundation for every sale.  It opens the prospect up to listening.  It allows the prospect to buy into what you are saying.  It makes the prospect want to do business with you.  And it can prevent the prospect from having buyers remorse and cancelling!

If you want to be a successful salesperson, you must first become talented at the art of building rapport.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mastermind Group

I was recently invited to attend a Mastermind Group held by a few people I know.  I believe they have been meeting for about a year but I'm not 100% sure about that.  A mastermind group is a collection of people that get together and spend time focusing on one individual at a time, helping them to sort through questions, issues, problems, etc that they might have.  Most mastermind groups I am aware of are business related, although there often aren't any boundaries.

Now the first rule they told me about mastermind group was "what happens at mastermind group, stays at mastermind group."  So they respect each others privacy and don't repeat what they share with each other. So I obviously am not going to discuss what was actually talked about in the group.  I have not participated in a formal group like this before and it was very interesting to me.  I enjoyed the openness from each of the individuals and everyone genuinely wanted to help the other people in the group.

I feel like I was able to contribute to the group, even though I was a guest.  And we did spend some time talking about my business, which allowed me to leave with some valuable insight for myself.

If you aren't familiar with the concept you should do some research about mastermind groups and how they work.  The structure, size, meeting time, meeting length, etc is all flexible and determined by the members, so you can make it work.  I will definitely be participating in some type of mastermind group in some way.  I firmly believe you should surround yourself with successful people, because your friends are often times a reflection of yourself.

Quit being lazy, just do it!